Saturday, November 7, 2009

Women of Faith: Part I

In preparing to go to the Women of Faith Conference in  Oklahoma a few weeks ago, I began asking God for a fresh touch to my spirit. I have found I have bad days, good days and some really bad days, but never anything  that even approaches my formerly happy life before July 13.

I shared this concern with a friend who was going to the Conference with me, and the promise she was claiming for us all was from Matthew 9. It is the story of a woman with a 12 year hemorrhage. This woman felt if she could just touch the fringe of Jesus' garment, she would get well. I love Jesus' comment from The Message in the twenty-second verse: "Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith and now you're well." I am ready to take any risk of faith to achieve some forward motion in this healing process.

Interestingly enough, the verses that captured my attention as I pondered a renewal of faith were from the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Do you ever really think through these stories and how they'd play out in real life? Jesus is in the temple when this woman is hauled in front of everyone, front and center.  Caught red-handed. So great was the Pharisees' desire to expose her sin to Jesus, she may have just had time to throw a blanket around herself. Now she stands before God and everyone (literally) half-naked in church. I don't know about you, but I've had nightmares like that.

The snarky religion scholars and the Pharisees want Jesus to Do Something Now about this situation they've hauled his way. By law, this woman should be stoned.  (And sidenote: where is the man she was with? Just saying.) It is a trap. If Jesus misjudges, they can bring charges against him. This scenario is quite a distance from the "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine" theology we teach to our children in Sunday School.

And what does Jesus do? He bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. He said nothing. And for some reason, that made the religious torch-and-pitchfork crowd furious. They kept at him, pestering and badgering him. Jesus finally stood up and said, "Whoever is sinless: you throw the first stone", and he bent down and wrote in the dirt some more.

Apparently, this made everyone shutteth up. And they began to slip out one, by one. The oldest going first. Oh, that we may continue to gain that wisdom as we grow older. There but for the grace of God go every one of us.

I've often wondered what the last young, loudmouthed buck must have been like. He had the courage of his convictions, but no one to cover his back. I think his knowledge was probably wide, but about an inch deep. When we are young, sometimes we don't know what we don't know. Eventually, he, too, slunk out. Probably mumbling "Drat! Foiled again!" and plotting the next conflict. Lesson not learned.

This is where it gets really interesting. Jesus turns to the woman, now left quite alone. Don't you know that her eyes were popping out of her head with amazement? Moments ago she had a death sentence hanging over her head, and now she is alone with the Son of God who is continuing his dirt floor art.

Does he lecture her on her sin? No. He simply says,"Where are the people who condemned and accused you?" Well, they are obviously gone. I'm sure her eyes never left his face, and her body is still clinched and waiting for the hammer she is expecting to fall on her.

Jesus' words? "I don't condemn you either. Go. Don't sin anymore."

I am sure that an hour lecture would not have been half as effective as that simple message. 

I know in my classroom that when I begin to correct students with lo, so many words, that their eyes roll back in their heads and I suddenly sound like the parents in the Charlie Brown shows to them. Bwah, bwah. Bwah bwah bwah.

But if I correct with this "few words" philosophy? Looking them straight in the eyes and softly saying, "Stop", will end almost any action. Quickly.

By now you are probably wondering what in the Sam Hill does this story have to do with anything, but you're too far into the blog to give up the five minutes you've lost. Stay with me as I transition to The Point.

"Go and sin no more." Five very powerful words. Sin is an archer's word. It means "missing the mark" or missing the bullseye.  Missing the point of what we should be doing. In my grief class, our lessons have taught us that people can fall into serious addiction to mask the pain. Alcohol, drugs and promiscuity are common responses to the loss of a loved one. My response has been to torment myself with the would've,could've, should've: how I could have handled Dave's seven year journey with cancer and the eventual terminal diagnosis differently.

And God's words to me? "Go and sin no more." Just stop it. Stop rolling in it. Time to move on. Nothing can be changed. Lift up your head for what is ahead. Go and don't miss the mark anymore.

I can do that? That is an option? You bet it is. No more renting room to those thoughts in my head. What will I do with all my new "head room"? 

How about use it for some more healing.

"I waited for the Lord on high.
I waited and He heard my cry."


Anonymous said...

Oh my, this was remarkable! The teacher that you are and how you put it into words! In the midst of your pain, God is so speaking through you my friend! I know that God is going to comfort and heal you. God has, in the past had a work for you and He has even more of a work for you ahead, in the future. We are and will continue to pray for you! We love you!
Patty R.

C'est la vie said...

The author's written reflection speaks volumes about her own experience connected to the beautiful detail of Jesus' forgiving quality. It is a striking note that the theme of forgiveness is recurrent in biblical literature. I congratulte the author for her quest to understand the wounds of relationship. And this enables her to end with a sense of gratitude.